A brief history…
‘Polka dots’ are obviously dots (from the Old English ‘dott’, meaning speck). So where did the addition of ‘polka’ get attached to the pattern we all recognise? The polka is a simple dance, which took America and Europe by storm soon after its introduction in 1835. The name ‘polka’ is itself a bit of a mystery. Polka is Polish for ‘Polish woman’, but the polka dance is actually of Bohemian origin. Some academics believe that polka may actually derive from the Czech word ‘pulka’ (meaning half), referring to the short half steps involved in the dance.
So, what does the polka dance have to do with polka dots? Essentially nothing at all. The polka craze, which lasted for several decades in the 1800s, was sufficiently popular enough to inspire manufacturers to prefix ‘polka’ to the name of a wide variety of completely unrelated commercial products in an attempt to capitalise on polka-mania. Most of such polka tie-ins disappeared as the dance fad faded, however ‘polka dots’ survived!
Polka prints for SS18
A rising trend last season, polka dot prints aren’t going anywhere for spring/summer 2018. If you struggle with the somewhat girly association with polka dots (we can’t help but envisage Minnie Mouse inspired dresses), now is the time to rethink the timeless and surprisingly versatile print – as designers have gone dotty for spring!
Polka dots were incorporated into catwalk collections across Giorgio Armani, Dior, Self-Portrait and Mary Katrantzou, to name a few. At Rodarte, a traditional dot was adopted in an uncharacteristically subtle print, adding them to soft ruffled pleats. While Balenciaga’s AW17 offering is proving popular as spring hits, with oversized dots adorned on voluminous couture gowns – created to mark the centennial of the French house.
The style memo? Join up the fashion dots and wear your print in monochrome this season. Opt for contemporary silhouettes and clean lines to avoid looking outdated.
In need of some outfit-building inspiration? See how the street style set wear their polka dots…
Eve Brannon, Fashion and Features Editor